"Of all tyrannies, a tyranny exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It may be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron's cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end, for they do so with the approval of their consciences." ~ C.S. Lewis
Why Does the World Feel Wrong?
Exclusive to STR
January 27, 2009
Consider these events:
1. A president who started two aggressive wars, who bears responsibility for the loss of thousands of American lives along with hundreds of thousands of Iraqi and Afghan lives, leaves office as a free man without a felony record or any negative repercussions.
4. Untold millions of Americans voice support of military troops as these very people are needlessly killed, injured, and separated from their families and productive work at home.
5. A general populace believed that buying unproductive assets, like housing, could make them wealthy, forever, without any coherent explanation why.
6. Researchers who pursue alternative explanations for AIDS and cancer get their funding cut and have the results of their research squelched, while others who try to improve life by providing healthful foods find themselves under attack.
Overt criminality by leaders and passive, unclear thinking by the proles have become the norm. The two go together, creating a symbiotic ecosystem of tyranny. Fraud, theft, and murder have become widespread, just as the scale of lies told and believed have reached new heights. Irresponsibility has become socialized while people in the honest pursuit of good get thwarted.
Those of us who want little more than peace and freedom don't run the world. Pursuing freedom contradicts controlling others, so we can reason that people who pursue power have some motivations separate from our own.
I have not fully comprehended the implications of this until recently. Despite all the evidence to the contrary, I had assumed that the people who wield power feel similarly about moral issues as I do'I just couldn't see why they commit and justify unethical behavior. I already knew that states operate according to a code that the rest of us don't follow in our own lives. Nevertheless, I assumed that a man who acts without regard to moral laws must feel guilty about it. Then, one day, I stumbled onto this idea: Suppose he doesn't.
With only small ambitions, he probably behaves like a common criminal, a predator. He lies to gain advantage, uses force to get his way, and steals without conscience. Not feeling guilty about unethical behavior motivates him to instigate further criminal acts.
Small crime operations have one big problem, namely, the risk of getting caught. The prospect of prison appears unappealing, yet even with the high likelihood of arrest and capture during a career, common criminals approach their field with little sophistication and often pay the price. Other like-minded people see ways to avoid these problems. Just as normal people develop interests growing up and figure out how to pursue them at higher levels, a criminal mind can do the same. With greater intelligence and patience, he can pursue an ambitious career of criminality. With this objective in sight, one can easily see the state as the most expedient means to accomplish it.
Once a criminal joins forces with the state by becoming an employee, he can lie to his advantage, use force to get his way, and steal without conscience, just as the small-time operator does. The opportunities for mischief have no limits through thoughtful job selection. For example, if a man took pleasure in making innocent people squirm, he could become a police officer and plant evidence. For another, if he wanted to murder people, he could become a military officer and 'accidentally' call in the coordinates of a house he'd like to see bombed. Whatever they do, the state shields them from the natural consequences of their actions. In all likelihood, if smart, they never get caught, never get punished, and probably get commended.
Too often, I have assumed that the people working for the state take the jobs only because of the easy hours and good pay, benefits, and retirement. For the predator, though, it offers all these things with the appetizing fringe benefit of satisfying their criminal urges without the risk of retribution.
It turns out this personality type has a scientific name: psychopathic. Lest you think I merely kid you, I quote from Scientific American:
Superficially charming, psychopaths tend to make a good first impression on others and often strike observers as remarkably normal. Yet they are self-centered, dishonest and undependable, and at times they engage in irresponsible behavior for no apparent reason other than the sheer fun of it. Largely devoid of guilt, empathy and love, they have casual and callous interpersonal and romantic relationships. Psychopaths routinely offer excuses for their reckless and often outrageous actions, placing blame on others instead. They rarely learn from their mistakes or benefit from negative feedback, and they have difficulty inhibiting their impulses.
This seems like a nearly perfect description of those who seek political power. That same article goes on to say that fields over-represented by psychopaths may include 'politics, business and entertainment. Yet the scientific evidence for this intriguing conjecture is preliminary.' It turns out that much stronger evidence for this exists than the article lets on.
In the book Political Ponerology, Andrew Lobaczewski claims that about 6% of the people within a population have psychopathic characters. The implications of this, which he recognized soon after World War II, stagger the mind. Moreover, he suggests that another 12% of the population has high susceptibility to psychopathic thought. In a world dominated by hierarchical structures, these people sieze control of the key positions and create a so-called 'pathocracy.' Lobaczewski continues, writing in ways that clearly anticipate the current reality:
Within this [pathocratic] system, the common man is blamed for not having been born a psychopath, and is considered good for nothing except hard work, fighting and dying to protect a system of government he can neither sufficiently comprehend nor ever consider to be his own. An ever-strengthening network of psychopathic and related individuals gradually starts to dominate, overshadowing the others.
Normal people have not considered the possibility that some people who seem ordinary could have no moral inhibitions. They default to believing that their leaders have good intentions. Employees of psychopaths thus carry out plans of their bosses blinded to the reality. No matter the scope of the 'failure,' the leadership can always point back to their stated good intentions and shield themselves from the gallows. In fact, the more harm they create, the stronger the call becomes to vest more power in their failed agency so they can 'prevent' anything of the sort from ever happening again.
Their MO focuses on figuring out how much they can get away with, and we see no signs they have begun to approach the limits the public will accept. Irrespective of the ordeals they create, the vast majority of people give them the benefit of the doubt time and time again and continue in their support of the system. This belief among good people led to the democide of the 20th Century that continues unabated today.
After considering the possibility that psychopaths have taken control of society, we find volumes of evidence to support the hypothesis. Did Hitler, Stalin, Mao, and Pol Pot sympathize with their victims or have any sense of guilt? More recently, among Bush, Cheney, Rove, Rumsfeld, or Clinton , can we point to one who even exhibits a fa'ade resembling normality? Obviously not'these lists name one person after another who has zero accountability to a rational morality. If people like this could make their way to the highest levels of power, what does that say about lower offices?
It suggests people like this have control over the levers of power everywhere. We live at a time when the population at large cannot achieve its wants, yet few seem to know why. As one example, polls consistently indicate that educational matters concern the public, yet decade after decade, schooling gets quantitatively worse. What a mystery! Evidently, if we believe our well-meaning masters, 2,000 years of Western civilization has not yet determined effective ways to transmit key knowledge to younger generations. However, what happens if we suspend our belief in their benevolence for a moment and consider other possibilities? If schools fail to achieve their stated goals over several decades, might some groups see this as a success?
Inhibiting critical thinking in the masses obviously benefits the state and psychopaths. When overtly self-serving, irresponsible, illegal, immoral, irrational behavior gets treated as normal, we can conclude that the educational system works quite well for our masters. I have given but one example, yet the multitude of state functions exists to provide every variety of psychopathic interest with a job. Moreover, we should consider that the state not only acts like a recruitment center for psychopaths, but that psychopaths probably invented the state to take advantage of the rest of us. I can give you no better explanation for the existence of an organization that fails in every ethical dimension and invokes psychopathic thinking at every turn than this.
Our battle for liberty appears not just as a conflict between those who want freedom versus those who want control, but instead as the battle between normal people and the psychopaths. I have found incredible explanatory power of our world within the psychopathic hypothesis: The world feels wrong because psychopaths run it. In a country trained to discount and ridicule all ideas more than a standard deviation from the average, coherent explanations of observable social phenomena don't get much press. Without understanding physical laws, we would never have gained the massive improvements in our quality of life from technological developments. Similarly, without understanding our social systems, we will never escape from the tyranny unleashed on us by psychopaths. We should spread the word and explore this rich vein of thought with vigor.